The Continued Survival of Canberra’s Last Video Store
A classic Friday night in 2007 for many millennials involved an exhilarating trip to the local video store. The slow and ongoing extinction of video stores has been a saddening sight, as store after store has permanently closed. A typical video store always had an emotional teenager working behind the counter, overpriced confectionaries parents refused to buy, and an infinite collection of DVDs that scheduled your night.
Video stores have been slowly, yet swiftly assassinated since Netflix, Stan, YouTube and other streaming platforms have entered our viewing world. After Canberra’s last Blockbuster closed in 2017, Network Video in Charnwood has remained standing as Canberra’s last video store. I spoke to the manager of Video Network, Josh Mudford, about the negative effects of online streaming on his business and how Canberra can support the last video store.
Q: As the manager of Network Video, how long have you been operating your business?
“I’ve worked at Network Video for over a decade since 2007. I’ve owned the store for over seven years and managed it a few years before that when the store was under different business names and managers.”
According to the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association (AVRRA), in 2001 there were 2600 rental video stores nationwide. In 2017, the AVRRA announced only 750 stores remained open. In 2019, only 40 stores continue their business nationally.
Q: There are a scarce amount of video stores left Nationwide. As Network Video is Canberra’s last video store, how has online streaming affected rental video stores?
“The main source of the problem for all video stores is how the dynamic of the stores has changed and the way people get entertainment. Instead of visiting your local video store, everyone’s now getting their entertainment from a variety of different sources as opposed to just one. It’s changed the number of people coming into the stores too. Rather than a set number of customers like before, stores are now getting customers from further away. But for some stores, this can cover any loses of the people who’ve left. They’re people who have Netflix and Foxtel, but they’re still coming to the video store as well, just not as frequently or not at all. Unfortunately, times are changing and video stores won’t be around forever.”
Furthermore, in 2017 the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association (AVRRA) was unable to financially support itself and folded, announcing that internet downloading and piracy are the ultimate murderers of video stores and the “worst and longest enemy of the industry.”
Q: How has your business survived for so long?
“Network Video is an independent store and we’re not part of a franchise. It does make it easier surviving in trying times than for other video stores. Luckily, we don’t have to necessarily do what the head office wants our store to do. We only have to pay for our own bills, as opposed to paying head offices bills as well. Our store gets about 450 to 550 members a week, which is usually either our younger or older members, unlike Netflix having millions of subscribers in Australia alone. Because not everyone wants to pay for monthly online subscriptions, we’ve been able to survive for our customers who need us, and for people wanting to interact and look for any recommendations.”
Q: What makes Network Video significant and special?
“Working at Network Video was my first job. I’ve always come to video stores and I’ve always enjoyed watching films. I get to speak with people about the films they love. Some people come to our video store just because they want their kids to have the ‘video store experience’, just like they did growing up. It also gives parents the opportunity to show their children movies that they watched when they were young, as many older movie titles are not readily available to watch through streaming platforms. Personally, one of my favourite things about working here is people actually like to come in and chat about movies.”
Q: How can the Canberra community support your business?
“Renting our films is the best way to support the store. We hold a bigger variety of movies than most streaming services. We’ve got over 9000 different titles, which equates to about 26,000 discs. Our oldest movie we have is from 1916 to the newest release.”
Video Stores are a greatly depleting industry both nationally and internationally. Online platforms have created a culture of convenience with no late fees, free trials and easy access without leaving the house. As more people are choosing to support online platforms, the numbers of video stores have permanently deteriorated quickly and swiftly over the last decade.
While online platforms have made accessible entertainment easier and affordable, online streaming doesn’t have the same strong, nostalgic feeling as video stores. Video stores offer the option to browse through hundreds of DVDs, ask a real person for a movie recommendation – rather than being fed something from an often inaccurate algorithm, as well as give customers a sentimental and happy feeling.
If you’d like to visit Canberra’s last video store, see Network Video in Charnwood today.